BOZEMAN — Seeking to increase the hands-on training of its students in hospitality management and culinary arts, Montana State University will enter into an agreement with a developer for a privately owned, full-service hotel on campus that will give students hands-on education and practical experience before moving into Montana’s growing hospitality economy.

“Having a fully integrated hotel here on campus will provide opportunities for students enrolled in our four-year and associate of applied science degree programs. This partnership will boost enrollments of these high-demand areas, which is something the state’s hospitality industry has asked us to do,” said Alison Harmon, vice president of research and economic development.

“This privately owned hotel and its associated culinary services will provide additional opportunities for our students to have internships and employment that are easily accessible,” said Stephanie Gray, dean of Gallatin College MSU.

At its May meeting, the Montana Board of Regents approved MSU’s request to enter into a ground lease agreement with Cross Harbor Capital and its development arm, Lone Mountain Land Co. The developers plan to build, own and manage a hotel on MSU’s campus that will be operated under a franchise agreement with Marriott Hotels. The land lease to Cross Harbor Capital is for 40 years, with a 10-year renewal option.

Cross Harbor Capital and Lone Mountain Land Co. have shown a great commitment to being a long-term academic partner with MSU and to helping the university achieve its goals for the hospitality management and culinary arts programs, according to Terry Leist, MSU vice president of administration and finance. He said Cross Harbor Capital/Lone Mountain Land Co. was one of four entities to submit a proposal for the project.

The hotel will be in the South University District, located along South Seventh Avenue, south of Norm Asbjornson Hall and near the university’s North and South dome gyms.

MSU’s four-year hospitality management program in the College of Education, Health and Human Development enrolled its first students in 2017. It prepares students to become skilled professionals within the expanding local, regional, national and global hospitality industries. Students choose one of three degree options: food enterprise, lodging and facilities management, or restaurant management: farm-to-table. All three options feature an interdisciplinary, experiential curriculum, Harmon said. She added that lodging and facilities management is the program’s most popular option.

The curriculum draws from course work in food and nutrition, culinary arts, business, and agriculture, as well as hospitality-specific course work emphasizing sustainability and quality customer service across the hospitality industry. All options include internships to ensure that graduates have practical experience that will prepare them to be competitive candidates for jobs after graduation.

Gallatin College MSU offers a culinary arts associate of applied science degree. The degree leads to a variety of culinary and food service job possibilities in the local food services industry. Students may also opt to take an entrepreneurial path toward owning a restaurant, bakery, food truck or catering business. The program also prepares students to transfer into the hospitality management bachelor’s program, if they wish. The culinary arts program, which began in the fall of 2017, is currently full, according to Gray.

Harmon noted that the potential to grow the hospitality management and culinary arts programs has been limited primarily due to a lack of space.

“We have two degree programs — hospitality management and culinary arts — sharing one kitchen where many classes take place,” Harmon said. “I don’t think we could expand our hospitality management numbers appreciably with the facilities we have now.”

Harmon noted that the university originally intended to have about 100 students enrolled in the hospitality management program. The hotel could change that, she said.

“I think we could easily exceed that goal with additional hands-on learning spaces and more visibility for the program,” she said.

Strong career possibilities are available to graduates of both hospitality management and culinary arts. Students who graduate from MSU’s hospitality management program can expect to find job opportunities with competitive starting salaries, Harmon said, with an average starting salary of $52,000 and ranging from $40,000 to $75,000.

Many of the hospitality management program’s graduates stay in Montana or the region, Harmon noted, with previous graduates finding employment at hotels and restaurants in Bozeman, Big Sky, across the state and in Colorado. Students have interned in Big Sky, Bozeman and elsewhere in Montana, including at the Element Hotel, the Sacajawea Hotel, the Yellowstone Club, Sage Lodge, Triple Creek Ranch, Springhill Suites and Hilton Garden Inn.

Harmon said approximately 53 students are currently enrolled in the hospitality management program and another 26 are enrolled in Gallatin College MSU’s two-year culinary arts program. So far, 34 students have graduated from the hospitality management program, and 22 students have graduated from culinary arts.

The hotel will offer internship opportunities for those in hospitality, culinary arts and trades-related industries. It will also offer spaces for academic classes to meet.

The hotel will also provide a convenient opportunity for a work experience in between a students’ scheduled classes, Harmon said.

“Our students need work experience in this industry in order to be most employable when they graduate, but it’s not easy to balance work with classes unless there is a convenient place to work.”

Beyond the benefits to students, Harmon said that a hotel will also serve campus visitors.

“Having a lodging option close to sports venues and other entertainment and cultural events will benefit visitors to campus,” she said. “It will give campus visitors an up-close and personal experience of MSU.”

For people attending some MSU-sponsored events, blocks of rooms will be offered at discounted rates, according to Leist. The hotel will also have meeting spaces that will enable MSU and its partners, including the MSU Alumni Foundation, to host events.

The Montana Department of Labor and Industry forecasts an annual need for 2,074 cooks, 64 head chefs and 153 bakers every year through 2031.

The opportunity to produce MSU graduates who can fill those positions is “significant” and will help Montana’s tourism industry, Leist said.

The hotel will also provide visibility and help put MSU’s programs on the map, Harmon noted.

“The best (hospitality management) programs in the country have campus teaching hotels,” she said. “This fully integrated hotel will improve the reputation of our programs regionally and nationally to have this resource on campus.”

More information about MSU’s hospitality management program is available HERE. More information about Gallatin College MSU’s culinary arts program is available HERE.

- by Anne Cantrell, MSU News Service -

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